Alexander the Great meets the Buddha

Today, I had a plan to attend one of the many exhibitions at Seoul Art Center. I have to admit that this exhibition didn’t originally cross my radar but I was glad to have ended up visiting it!

The Alexander the Great meets the Buddha  for non-Korean speakers was actually a very quick exhibition, as there was a great lack of material for non-Korean speakers but I was able to look up and close at each exhibit.

The key learning point of my day was that before the 2nd and 1st century AD there had been no real depictions of the Buddha, no statues, no images, nothing but thanks to the invasion (not sure the thanks is a welcome one) by Hellenistic armies that had conquered the than territory of Bactria (modern day Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan). Before that.. there had only been the Bodhi Tree, stupas, empty seats, footprints and the wheel.

The question that some ask, regarding the look of the Buddha is how the input of the Hellenistic leaders may have had on the look of the Buddha.

Nevertheless, the exhibition focuses on the imagery of the Buddha, the impact of Alexander the Great following the conquering of Gandhara in 327BC.

It was amazing to be able to stand so close to history and sad to know that so many in the world are trying to destroy history in Central Asia and the Middle East to protect their own culture or to imply a long history of one culture over others.

Photos by Simon Williams-Im

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